Student Ambassador Stephanie Gonzalez’s journey to study abroad was a life-changing decision. Check out how Ireland has left its mark on her life in three significant ways.

My name is Stephanie Gonzalez, I am a Mexican-American student from Chicago, Illinois studying Psychology and English at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Ireland.

 The decision to come abroad for my degree was not a decision taken lightly, however, it is safe to say it was the best one I could have made for myself. Studying abroad can be a very glamourised yet fear-inducing stage in one’s life, still it can end up being the most rewarding. My experience in Ireland would be impossible to describe in words, therefore I will share three ways I believe this beautiful and crazy country has made its imprint on my life.

1. I welcome uncertainty with open arms! If there is one thing those who know me will say about me is that my need for a perfectly executed plan when doing anything has been the source of constant unnecessary headaches. This is not to say setting plans is not important, rather keeping in mind that sometimes plans just do not work out – and that is still okay!
Being from a city like Chicago, I am used to constant movement and expectation of hustle within other residents. Ireland quickly shut this idea down. There are times when I plan a trip so liberally because in all sincerity, you do not know what can happen.

I understand this can be daunting to many, including myself, but there is the possibility of unforgettable memories being created out of what one would consider an inconvenience. Meeting up with new people out of the blue, going on spontaneous trips, and genuinely experiencing human connection is better than any plan could have allowed. The Irish outlook and overall belief that things will inevitably work out despite any inconvenience is what keeps me looking forward and welcoming the journeys the future has in store.

2. I no longer feel nervous to meet new people: I have always been a rather shy child growing up. Meeting new people and striking casual conversations always struck a nerve of anxiety within me. I have come to learn that this is not a common issue within the Irish community.

The people of Ireland are known for their friendly and welcoming demeanor. This is not an exaggeration. Whether you are on public transport, at your local pub, or simply on a walk around the neighborhood, a conversation will be struck, or a warm smile exchanged. Small but constant doses of this unconditional hospitality made me become more open to those around me. So much so that at times I will catch myself going out of my own way to speak to a stranger even for a short chat.

3. I feel more connected to nature while I still have iconic cities at my fingertips

As stated previously, I am from the big and beautiful city of Chicago. While nature is nothing out of the ordinary there, nothing could have prepared me for the iconic and breath-taking landscapes Ireland has to offer. Allowing myself to find peace in these places that were so foreign in my eyes gave me an appreciation for the natural beauty of earth. Whether it be the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara National Park, or Achill Island, to name a few, there is nothing quite like the experience and honour of seeing it all before your eyes.

This is only a fraction of what Ireland and its people have allowed for me to explore within myself. I am eternally grateful to the country and to myself for choosing this one of a kind land and culture for my young adult years. 

Now should you find yourself in a pub in Ireland, I would be more than happy to tell you about more adventures this country made possible over a pint!

Stephanie is doing a Bachelor of Arts – Psychology and English at MIC